by Catherine Arjet,
Assistant Arts & Life editor
When we last talked to Sara Jo Ridgeway, her End It campaign was in its infancy. Now, over a year later, it’s not only still going strong, it’s grown into a weeklong event. To get a perspective on what’s new, what’s bigger and what’s coming, we sat down with Sara Jo, now a sophomore, once more.
The Purple & White: When we spoke to you last year, the End It campaign had just started. Can you tell me about how it’s developed over the past year?
Sara Jo Ridgeway: Well, it obviously helps that I’m not a freshman, so I know what resources to get. I know more the logistics of things, like I know how to book AC 215 to hold our candlelight (vigil) in this year, and Chaplin Chris Donald (and I) have definitely developed a stronger relationship over the year, and he’s been a really big help to me. The ways the actual events have changed though: We had more performers at the candlelight, so there was way more student involvement, we had a Friday Forum, which is something we didn’t do last year and that I definitely want to do every year. It had a really big impact to have survivor come and share her first-hand experience with human trafficking.
P&W: Where do you expect to see this going in future years?
SJR: Oooh, I’m so excited about future years! End It kind of all started with myself—I had this crazy vision, and I got my friends and my sorority sisters to help me. This year we reached out to other sororities and other non-Greeks to help, but next year there’s going to be an official established committee, and in the fall we’ll go ahead and put applications out. The End It committee is also going to plan Take Back the Night. So next year will be way more formally organized, and I think things will run a lot smoother. I’ve been working with a lady in the community named Ashlee Lucas (Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security), and she wants to get the community more involved. The event events are already open to Millsaps campus and Jackson community, but hopefully next year we’ll see more of a Jackson community representation.
P&W: How has student involvement changed from last year to this year?
SJR: I think now that I know more people, I’m more comfortable with the campus. I didn’t expect to see that big of a turn out, but there was a huge turnout. I think it’s becoming a thing people are looking forward to every year, so every year I’ll probably see more campus and community people there, just because people will know it’s coming up.
P&W: Do you have a reason why you’re working on this particular issue?
SJR: A lot of times when people are really passionate about something they’ve had some type of experience with it, whether it be traumatic or just eye-opening. It’s kind of funny, I haven’t had some type of first-hand experience with human trafficking, but I went to a speaker once and her moral of the story was “what if you woke up, every single day, and you weren’t in control of your own body?” and that’s all she said. And that just really spoke to me … I guess it kind of really just took hold of me, and I just wanted to raise awareness about it. Human trafficking is something people tie and relate to third world countries a lot, but it’s something that happens in America and something that happens right here in Jackson and I think that that’s something that needs to be brought to light.
P&W: Do you think the issue is that we don’t see human trafficking as an American issue?
SJR: I think human traffic is something people have a hard time identifying with, they know it’s going on, and they’re like “oh yeah, there’s that problem,” but I think, there are these people who are enslaved and they just want to be set free. … I think raising awareness and having people be able to personally identify with the problem is just going to make people more passionate about it, and when things start happening—like Wendy Bradford (human trafficking survivor), who spoke at the forum, she’s starting the first home in Mississippi for victims in Jackson—things like that are going to keep going on and the more we raise awareness about it, the more people become passionate about it, the more people are educated about it. I think those are the steps we need to take before we can take real action
For those looking to get involved for the 2016 End It, look out for the committee applications in October of next year, Ridgeway promises they “won’t be too scary” and is grateful for both the help she’s already received and the people who are will to donate their time in the future to make the continuation of this campaign possible.